Sticking to a monthly grocery budget is not my favorite pastime in the world. I’m a stay-at-home mom with three young children. We rely on my husband’s income to keep our family afloat, so I do my best to stick tight to a grocery and meal budget to help with expenses.
I should probably start by saying that I love the idea of eating all organic produce, free-range chicken and beef, and farm-raised eggs and milk. However, that’s not the way my grocery budget works. I feed my family plenty of fresh produce and hormone-free meat, eggs and milk…but it isn’t always organic.
I try to stick to $400 a month with my grocery shopping but give myself a little grace if I go over because feeding a family of 5 on $100 a week is a tough (but doable) job.
Here are six steps for setting up a monthly grocery budget for your family.
Sign up for a meal plan.
There are lots of meal plan options available. I’ve used Emeals off and on for years. Emeals is an online weekly meal plan that provides recipes and shopping lists. The best part is you can pick what kind of meal you want to serve your family. For example, I’ve tried their Classic, Quick & Healthy, Low Carb, and Slow Cooker plans. They offer 15 options to choose from, and you can even do breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I opted for just the dinner plan (it’s cheaper). Do a little Googling for a coupon code to help with the cost of your meal plan.
Download an app.
Several of the meal planning programs offer an app once you’ve signed up for their plan. As for mine, I can pick which meals I want to make from the weekly list and then it automatically create my shopping list. Let’s say I decide the lentil stew recipe won’t be a winner with my family. I don’t add that meal to my shopping list, which means all the ingredients will be removed from the list as well. Using an app is a great way to stick to the essentials and not get side-tracked by a great deal that you don’t really need.
Do your grocery shopping online.
People, this is hands down one of the best ideas in the entire world. Walmart is the only store I know that offers free online shopping and pick-up, but many of my friends say the $5 for Kroger grocery pick-up is absolutely worth it. Shipt is another option for grocery shopping online (in Nashville, they shop Publix) — and they actually deliver directly to your home. Wherever you do your grocery shopping, check out an online option. When you’re not in the store, you’re less likely to fill your cart with items that you don’t really need…which means you’ll do a better job of sticking to your budget!
Buy in bulk for important purchases.
Besides online grocery shopping, I also have a Costco membership that gets a lot of use. It’s easy for me to get carried away with all the awesome products at Costco, but I’ve learned how to say no. I’ve done the math, and I know what is more economical to buy at Costco even if it is in mega size. My family regularly eats chicken, ground beef, strawberries, milk and eggs, so I buy all of that from Costco because I know it won’t go to waste. Since I’m the only one in my home that eats tomatoes, I don’t get those from Costco. And don’t just stop with the food! I purchase toilet paper, tissues, dog food, baby wipes, vitamins, underwear and stamps at Costco as well.
Stock up on sale items.
When a sale pops up on an item my family loves, you better believe I’ll load up on that sucker. My kids and I go through Greek yogurt like it’s our job, so when I find it for a good price, I clear off the shelf. I prefer to eat fresh produce (as opposed to canned fruits and veggies), but produce quickly adds up. Since I can’t really stock up on produce, I buy what’s seasonal because it’s a better price. That way my family gets a variety of produce throughout the year without breaking the bank.
I’m not a crazy coupon lady, but I’ve been known to use some coupons in my day. Some grocery stores, like Kroger, offer online coupons that load directly to your grocery account (like the Kroger Plus customer card). If you already do online meal planning and grocery shopping, you might as well do some online coupon using as well! You may not save a huge amount of money in your overall grocery purchase, but over time that $12 you save by using coupons each month adds up!
It’s tough to stick to a grocery budget, but I promise it gets easier each month that you try. And implementing some of the great tools available to help with budgeting and grocery shopping can really help you save money in the long run.